HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A day after Governor David Ige announced the state has failed to protect Mauna Kea, but the Thirty Meter Telescope has the right to proceed
with construction -- the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has responded to his plan for improved stewardship of the mountain.
It's a complicated history for OHA's Board of Trustees, who voted in support of the Thirty Meter Telescope in 2009. Then in May, they rescinded that approval, but stopped short of opposing TMT.
OHA trustees say the Governor's plan reflects the basic position of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs -- which is that the focus moving forward needs to not just be TMT, but the management of all of Mauna Kea.
OHA trustee Rowena Akana says Governor Ige's proposal affords an opportunity for a complete revision of the way Mauna Kea is safe-guarded.
"While the mountain holds many different things and feelings for different people, but for me the bottom line -- is if you cannot take
care of the land then you should not be in charge of it. You should not be able to manage it," said Akana.
Governor David Ige says that's exactly why he has asked the University of Hawaii to voluntarily return over 10,000 acres of Mauna Kea
land that is not needed for astronomy and start a new review of the consequences of development.
"We're asking the university to re-file the application for the lease extension and as part of that -- it does require a full environmental
impact statement, which has to include a cultural impact statement as well. So we do hope there is an opportunity for many to weigh in and provide additional comments on management of Mauna Kea," said Ige.
OHA trustee Peter Apo says the Governor's plan may finally secure a long-standing wish to return it to its natural state.
"If we can keep our eye on the future and think of it as a long-term project to finally clear the mountain of all commercial activity. I think that is a very achievable goal and something worth pursuing," said Apo.
Hawaii News Now political analyst Colin Moore says while he understands folks who have been protesting TMT development are likely disappointed, he believes they lost this battle but ultimately won the greater war in their fight to protect Mauna Kea and sacred spaces.
"This really is a victory for this style of civil disobedience. People really can change the outcome of things," said Moore, an assistant
professor of Political Science at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. "It caused the scientific, the astronomical community to take a lot of soul searching about their own impact on the mountain and I think it caused people who aren't Native Hawaiian to think really seriously about this issue. No matter what happens there's going to be a lot more support for stewardship of Mauna Kea."
TMT officials have not rolled out a timeframe for construction, but say they will continue their ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders.
Aloha Aina advocates who stand in protection of Mauna Kea say they will not give up.